Another $15 Minimum Wage Battle Headed for the Ballot?

December 5, 2013

The City of Seattle is giving every indication it plans to follow the City of SeaTac’s footsteps and increase the minimum wage for at least some workers in the City to a whopping $15 per hour.  

Comments made by Seattle City Council members in an article in today’s The Seattle Times reinforce that it is not a question of if the City will mandate a $15 minimum wage, rather how such an ordinance will be implemented and applied.   A majority of Council members have made clear their support of the super high minimum wage, but are less clear on what such a mandate might look like.   Details such as whether the increased minimum wage would be phased in over time or implemented at once and whether certain businesses or industries would be targeted or exempt, remain to be seen.

Last fall the Council approved a budget that included $100,000 to study such details.  The study is scheduled to be completed in June, but organized labor is already signaling it will not wait too long before taking the issue to voters.

Also unwilling to wait is the newest member of the Council, socialist Kshama Sawant, who ran on a campaign platform of “taxing the rich” and recently encouraged Boeing workers to “take over the factories, and shut down Boeing’s profit-making machine,” a move Sawant calls “democratic ownership.”  Sawant warns:

“…if corporate resistance results in the [proposed $15 per hour] ordinance getting watered down or not passing in 2014, then we will need to place an initiative on the 2014 ballot…workers simply can’t afford to wait any longer for $15 an hour.”

Mayor-elect Ed Murray hopes it won’t come to a ballot measure, believing an agreement can be hammered out by business and labor stakeholders.  Murray says he wants to avoid “an ugly fight in an election year” and promises the City will make a decision by the end of 2014. 

But wage hike supporters are anxious to capitalize and build on their success in SeaTac last month, and Seattle voters could be voting on a $15 minimum wage initiative in 2014.  The question is would voters pass such a measure?  The Seattle Times’ completely non-scientific, but interesting, online poll on the issue has over 68% saying no.

Comments

$15/ hour for a job you can learn in a few hours?

That equates to roughly $31k per year - the same or more as what college graduates earn right out of school (and tens of thousands of dollars poorer). I'm sorry but you don't deserve the same pay as a college graduate if you can learn your job in a few hours.

During the Seatac wage fight I heard a airport baggage worker say "I have been doing the same job for 3 years but never got a raise." So you've been doing the same job all this time, you haven't up-leveled your skills at all, yet you magically expect you're worth more?

We need smarter people on city council.